More relaxed Om rebounds in Mathis Brothers Mile
That more relaxed demeanor was likewise in evidence in the race itself, where the Dan Hendricks pupil proved that he doesn’t need the lead to win. His four prior victories had all come in wire-to-wire fashion – from the now-famous Del Mar maiden in which American Pharoah was fifth on debut, to his recent triumphs in the September 6 Del Mar Derby (G2) and October 24 Twilight Derby (G2). When chasing early in the Hollywood Derby, he looked out of sorts, and even after sweeping to the fore, his vulnerability became palpable. He was still a solid third, beaten a half-length, but it wasn’t quite the Om we’d seen before.
Just as the early vibes were negative in the Hollywood Derby, so were they positive on Saturday. Om’s (and Stevens’) body language telegraphed that he was on his game. Although Acceptance won the scrum for the lead, Om was switched off kindly in second through fractions of :23.03 and :47.15. He again moved on the far turn, but unlike last time, he seemed to be going effortlessly while joining the pacesetter at the six-furlong mark in 1:11.77.
Also on the move was Mister Brightside, who was dragging new rider Mike Smith more than the Hall of Famer wanted to go at that point. Thus emerged an intriguing subtext: his former trainer, Jeremy Noseda, had been highly critical of Kent Desormeaux’s ride on Mister Brightside in the Hollywood Derby, where he wound up a troubled ninth. Mister Brightside remained stateside, joined Paddy Gallagher, and got a rider switch. But it still wasn’t panning out for him.
Meanwhile, Om glided to the front turning for home, and Mister Brightside couldn’t raise his game. Then in a further plot twist, it was Desormeaux’s new mount, 23-1 shot Perfectly Majestic, who emerged as the lone challenger. Quickening smartly once angled off the fence, he threatened to make things interesting.
But Om had him covered rather comfortably. Stevens kept on hand-riding, and Om sprinted his final furlong in :11.72 to pull away again by 1 3/4 lengths. His final time for the firm-turf mile was 1:35.57.
Perfectly Majestic was much the best of the rest, crossing the wire 4 3/4 lengths clear of Vigilante. Acceptance held fourth, and Mister Brightside and Soul Driver didn’t perform up to their best in sixth and seventh, respectively.
Campaigned by the Sareen Family Trust, Om has compiled a record of 10-5-1-2, $550,500. The chestnut from the first crop of Munnings has also placed in the La Jolla (G3) and in the Affirmed (G3) on dirt.
Hendricks indicated that his next major objective is the Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1) over this course and distance March 12. Let’s hope for a showdown with another pacey type in Midnight Storm.
Quotes from Santa Anita
Hall of Fame rider Gary Stevens on Om: "He felt super today, he’s been training great. We got beat by a good horse in his last out in the Hollywood Derby and it just wasn’t his day down there.
"Today, everything went perfect. We were rolling into the turn, I got to slow it down and he got a nice breather. He hit the after-burners at the eighth pole. There was a horse coming to him and he still had something left and he gave it to me.
"The turf course is superb here. Santa Anita has done a great job with it.”
Dan Hendricks, Om’s trainer: “The race set up perfectly for him. He’s got the natural speed to be placed wherever Gary wants. We were either going to the front or going to sit second today, and it just worked out perfect. Gary rode him perfectly, the horse ran perfectly and I did an OK job training him, so I’m happy with how it all turned out.
“He could run next in the Kilroe or a race before that (the Arcadia [G2], also at one mile on turf, February 13). He’s a very lightly raced horse. He’s three years old, his joints are perfect, he’s sound, he’s happy and full of energy.”
Hall of Famer Kent Desormeaux, who rode runner-up Perfectly Majestic: “That horse just ran an eye-catching race. He sat well, good situation at the quarter-pole; I was able to keep the paint and slide through to the leader. When I got out, he just exploded. I said, ‘I’m an easy winner.’ And Om, oh my God, he just took off. I couldn’t catch him, but it wasn’t for lack of effort from the little guy I rode. He just ran his eyeballs out.”
Hall of Famer Mike Smith on sixth-placer Mister Brightside: “I was in a great spot (on the far turn), but I wasn’t there very comfortably. He was really, really pulling – too aggressive. That just hurt us. Instead of getting into a rhythm, I never really did.”
Photo courtesy of Benoit.